Renée Reiherzer would not want you to know that she crossed the rainbow bridge on August 19, days before her 71st birthday and too soon for everyone who loved her. Her husband, Mike Reiherzer; her son, Jesse Reiherzer; her daughter, Carrie Dwyer; daughter-in-law, Amie Reiherzer; son-in-law, David Dwyer; grandchildren Ethan and Sabine Reiherzer and Daniel Dwyer; brother, Mark Wambach; his wife, Joan; their daughters Mallory Hartweck and Emma Salyer and their families; friends; fellow dog breeders; her dog owners; vets; vet techs; and the countless strays and misfits she took under her wing lost a beautiful, opinionated, flamboyant force of nature renowned for her generosity, picky eating, and sarcasm.
By all accounts, including hers, Renée was a brilliant, precocious child. She graduated from North High School and attended the University of Southern Indiana before going on to work in banking, advertising, dental equipment, and real estate. She married Mike Reiherzer in 1980 and gleefully gave him a hard time for over forty years.
A committed, adoring, and playful mother, Renée taught her kids to dream and to believe in themselves. She went to great lengths to be supportive, carting her kids to endless practices and lessons, sacrificing to buy a never-ending stream of equipment and bedazzled dresses, and attending nearly every game, recital, and show, franticly waving and smiling as soon as she set eyes on her kid. She loved making birthdays and holidays magical, and she spent hours looking for the perfect gift or the right Halloween costume and using her prodigious artistic talent to turn her son into a dead-ringer for Freddie Kruger and her daughter’s Barbie Dreamhouse into a carpeted, wallpapered glam pad.
She also, evidently, spent hours plotting ways to torture and torment her kids. A trip after dark into the basement or into the yard was her chance to scare you out of your skin. A text message from her was almost certainly an earworm that would test your sanity. And while she loved pranking them, her favorite thing in the world was to be teased by her kids. Crack a joke about her bizarre pronunciation of “daughter” or “measure,” and she’d throw her head back in delight and let loose her loud, deep laugh.
Friends of her kids were treated no differently, and she kept her home, refrigerator, and door always open. She took their problems seriously and listened patiently. Thirty years later, many of them still call her “Mom.”
Renée was a doting grandmother who wrote and illustrated homemade books to delight her grandkids and encouraged their interests and talents.
An accomplished breeder of champion Portuguese Water Dogs, Renée enjoyed a distinguished career that spanned thirty-five years. She was a member of the American Kennel Club and the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America, and she vetted prospective puppy owners like they were applying for top secret national security clearances. Deserving owners who couldn’t afford a puppy might just get one, either as a gift or as part of a deal skewed heavily in their favor. She—proudly—never turned a profit. Hers was a labor of love, and she encouraged her kids and grandkids to love animals, too, fervently believing caretaking to be the best way to learn responsibility, empathy, compassion, and kindness.
Renée couldn’t stand relaying bad news, especially to her kids, and preferred to say someone had “crossed the rainbow bridge” to soften the blow. Per her wishes, the family will hold a private celebration of her life. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Renée’s name to Feeding America. Or take a page from Renée’s book: Help buy a guitar for one of your kid’s friends; purchase a winter coat, hat, and gloves for a needy student a friend tells you about; or support family, friends, businesses, or anyone else going through a hard time.